dimanche 16 octobre 2011

Cloud Computing in 1996

Since the sad death of Steve Jobs, a lot of articles were written about him and about famous figures that revolutionized the computing industry like Bill gates and others. These figures are described as men with a vision, a power to see or modify the future. Among them, I was mostly amazed by one of them: Larry Ellison the co-founder and  CEO of Oracle. I was watching a 96's documentary "The triumph of the nerds", which talks about the rise of personal computers, where he was interviewed and asked about the future of PCs. Larry Ellison believed that the PC will be replaced with a cheap device he calls an information appliance which will access information and computing simply by connecting to giant computers via the Internet. Figure well that the Internet was just beginning to boom those days. The CEO of Oracle says: 
"I hate the PC with a passion. Me going down to the store and buying Windows 95, I've got to get into my car drive down to a store buy a cardboard box full of bits you know encoded on a piece of plastic CDROM and you bring it home and read a manual install this thing - you must be kidding you know, put the stuff on the net - it's bits, don't put bits in cardboard, cardboard in trucks, trucks to stores, me go to the store, you know, pick the stuff out, it's insane. OK I love the Internet - I want information you know it flows across the wire."

Did you guess what he was speaking about? Cloud Computing, yes, in the 1996s!

Thanks to the vision of this man, Oracle is now a major player in the cloud computing industry with an offering covering SaaS products and PaaS/IaaS enabling technologies. He is also a major shareholder in several SaaS providers, like Salesforce.com and NetSuite.

This is what I call a vision! although its as simple as applying traditional economic laws to computing. According to Wikipedia, Its seems that the underlying concept of cloud computing has be thought of by a computer scientist called John McCarthy in the sixties when he opined that computation may someday be organized as a public utility.For example, it is cheaper for a company to pay for the services of a mail service provider than building its own army of mail men to deliver its mails! it is the simple phenomenon of pooling resources and specializing businesses.

mercredi 10 août 2011

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

The story of John Perkins is an easy to stumble upon story in the conspiracy theory based literature. I learned about him in the second documentary of the famous series Zeitgeist. John Perkins wrote a book about his story, his life: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. In this book, he explains how the United States of America used economy and finance to extend its empire across the globe. I thought that it is a point of view worth telling, especially that I always considered that 90% of the world's events are often driven by hidden financial logic.

Corporatocracy is a word Perkins invented to describe the implicit coalition of the banks, corporations and governments. The interests of these three institutions have converged in the current capitalist economical system. A lot of big names in this coalition have in their CVs entries from the three different institutions: for example the current president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick was a former Deputy Secretary of State of the USA and a member in the board of the energy corporation Enron.
This Corporatocracy is the new imperialist empire of nowadays. The Americans have discovered after their wars in Asia in the fifties that they had to change their imperialist strategies. They adopted a new creative strategy to dominate countries with resources: Corporatocracy instead of armies. This strategy has three different steps according to the resistance of the targeted country.
The first step is accomplished by the Economic Hit Men (EHM) like John Perkins. The objective is convincing the leaders of the country with resources to take huge loans from the World Bank to finance some development projects. These projects are contracted to american corporations (construction, energy, communication, consulting..) so the money is vehicled back to the USA. EHMs are men with expensive suits, who work often for private consultancy companies for camouflage, and try to convince third world leaders with a lot of means. One of the tasks John Perkins has typically done was writing exaggerated economical forecasts on the effect of loans and development projects on the growth of the targeted country's GDP. He even invented with the collaboration of an MIT mathematician an economical model for forecasting that is easy to cheat. Other ways for convincing include corruption, threats, sex.. Typically the leader will be promised to be rich with his family, and protected also by the USA. When the leader yields, his country with rich resources makes huge loans from the World Bank. Loans that can never be payed back with interests. This way the World Bank blackmails this country afterwards, and forces it to open its borders to american corporations, sell its oil for low prices, accept american military bases on its land, give its vote for the USA in the UN...
If the EHMs fail their mission, the Jackals step in. This is the second step. The Jackals are professional killers, specialized in eliminating leaders by assassinations or other methods. In Ecuador, Jaime Roldos elaborated a policy that helped its people with the oil money, and it was surely not international oil companies friendly. He was killed in an "mysterious" plane crash. In Panama, Omar Torrijos wanted to enforce the fair pact that was signed with Carter about the canal. He was similarly killed in a plane crash. The savoir-faire of the Jackals includes organizing riots and coup d'etat such as with Mossadegh in Iran and Chavez in Venezuela.
In the third step, the traditional army approach is finally used. This is when the EHMs and the Jackals fail. In the case of Irak, Saddam Husein has a strong character, he had money and power and wasn't corruptible by the EHMs, and the Jackals couldn't get him because he has collaborated a lot with CIA and knew all of their tricks. Irak was invaded after that the Corporatocracy has invested billions of dollars in media to convince the public opinion of the invasion. They got what they wanted. The oil, the military bases, and all the development projects contracted to the american corporations.

A documentary has been made based on this book, you can find it on youtube:

As I saw on the internet, this book was a bestseller, rose a lot of criticism on some factual things, and was described as another conspiracy theory book. Personally, I found the book interesting and quite passionate. Nevertheless, I think the essential information is not enough to make a book of it, but the way the author has put it in a narration style makes it  worth reading, even if some information is being repeated constantly. I also think the the confessions of Perkins have come a little bit late, after he has played the game for many years. Something inside of me felt while reading the book that the author wanted by this book just another success in his life rather than an authentic confession. I felt also that the author is a bit egocentric as if the stories are more about him than about explaining the Corporatocracy game. This makes me wonder about the correctness of the facts in the book. 
In all cases it is an interesting book and a point of view worth exploring. It is also a point of start to further readings on the big political events of the last century.


dimanche 29 mai 2011

Scrum & Outsourcing

Agile development is a fashion nowadays. Anyone one who wants to shine in a professional discussion adds SCRUM keyword between his words. For making things short, Scrum is a very dynamic and flexible way of  work organization in order to conduct a project. In scrum we privilege persons and interaction over processes, working products over heavy documentation, client collaboration and trust over negotiation and contracts, and finally flexibility over planning.
In big companies, sometimes there is a need to reinforce scrum teams with external persons, which is known as technical assistance (outsourcing). This is a very risky strategy if it is not well managed and understood.
As said before, scrum is highly dependent on interaction among team members, and on their spirit of initiative and proposition. If the external members aren't motivated enough, scrum can be a nightmare for the project. Many reasons are possible of this lack of motivation: The external member intervene for a short period of time, he doesn't have a good vision of the project, the scrum master hides a lot of information considered important to his company... The problem with scrum is that documentation isn't present in abundance. It means that scopes and rules of work aren't well defined and in case of problems it is not easy to contractually repair the damage. When trust is not well present, hell of mutual accusations threatens the success of the project.

Scrum's name is inspired by Rugby. It is a team game. If you aren't sure about the external people you want to integrate in your team better not use them and work harder in the smaller team, or otherwise work in the standard V-model process.


vendredi 27 mai 2011

Job interview comic

In one of my previous job interviews, a female HR interviewer asks me: what is your current salary? so I answer: We never ask a man about his salary, and never a lady about her age.. Smartly the HR replies: I am 36 year's old, now its your turn.. :D


mardi 26 avril 2011

Capitalism and diversity

A few days ago, I was walking back home from work as usual, and I noticed that the grocery next door was bought by Carrefour, a big multinational retailer. I entered the shop, and I started wandering around to check what has changed. It was amazing how they managed to fill every small corner of the place with a shiny product. There was a much bigger diversity of products than the older shop had. I said to myself how great capitalism and the current global economical system are.
I kept thinking about it on the road ..but ...NO WAIT A MINUTE!! Diversity??? Actually what I saw in the shop was exactly the same as what I saw in the other branches of this retailing brand in Paris, in Lille...and in all the cities I have visited.

Capitalism means open markets and free worldwide circulation of goods. It means an inevitable and atrocious competition among companies on the international scale. It means a race toward critical size.and the dominance of corporates over local business. It means lower prices to make more profit. It means rationalizing all of  the production and distribution processes. It means convergence to the same model. Simply, it means you are going to eat the same McDonald hamburger and drink the same Coca Cola whether you are in London, Paris or Rome, in spite of all of the rich local diverse products you may have in those wonderful cities. What we reached is a local diversity, but a horrible global monotony! a global monotony that is killing all of the beautiful local cultures worldwide. Same fast food, same fashion, same music, same same same!! This is really sad, all of the richness that the humanity has produced over the past centuries are just fading behind modern capitalism.

The same effect has changed our individual human knowledge. The rationalization of processes and the search for minimizing costs, has lead to very very specific functions. Our jobs are very specialized in a specific subject: mobile developer, UMTS specialist... We need a doctor to solve all of our health problem,s we need a specialized person in every problem that urges in the house, we need a bank to take care of our money, we need, we need ... The knowledge scope of our minds is being narrowed continually.

I am not really criticizing, nor do I have solutions. I am just writing about what I see everyday.


mercredi 13 avril 2011

The laws of simplicity

Trying to be simple in my life is a cause I fight for everyday. Simple is the little that means the most, it is this pure knowledge or truth that finds its way directly to your heart and your mind. When I saw a book talking about simplicity in the hands of a work colleague, I couldn't but borrow it and check it out. The laws of simplicity is a book written by John Maeda, a professor in MIT's Media Lab and a famous graphic designer. In this book, the author doesn't go so far in explaining why simplicity should be a way of thinking and a way of life, he rather focuses on how to reach simplicity, by respecting a set of ten laws. Nevertheless, It is clear through the book that John Maeda is convinced by the importance of simplicity in business: Simplicity sells!
The ten laws of simplicity are the following:

  1. REDUCE: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
  2. ORGANIZE: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
  3. TIME: Savings in time feel like simplicity.
  4. LEARN: knowledge makes everything simpler
  5. DIFFERENCES: Simplicity and complexity need each other
  6. CONTEXT: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
  7. EMOTION: More emotions are better than less.
  8. TRUST: In simplicity we trust.
  9. FAILURE: Some things can never be made simple.
  10. THE ONE: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
I found that the first four laws are the most important to achieve simplicity, and the rest of them are to be considered when you feel that you have exaggerated in your simplicity.

The first law, reduce, has reminded me very much of a chapter I read in Rework, a recent business book. In Rework, they underline the importance of reducing features in a product to focus on the essential, reduce company complexity and expenditures to have lesser business inertia (more flexibility). They advice to put pre-constraints on your work (scope, budget, time, material) to avoid complexity and avoid drifting from core business. To respect the Reduce Law, John Maeda proposes to the reader a tool he calls "SHE". SHE stands for Shrink, Hide and Embody.
  • Shrink: The smaller an object is, the more it exceeds our expectations and impresses us. The more delicate and fragile it is, the more attention we give it. Ex: an iPod nano.
  • Hide: Whenever there is a complexity, just hide it! and give the power to the user to control the presence of this complexity. Ex: Touchscreen smartphones: dial pad appears only when u click on a small icon on the home screen. Ex: in Cloud computing, the complexity of business logic and computing is hidden from the user, as it is put away from him.
  • Embody: Now that your product is simpler, you have give it more value in the perception of the final user. This is mostly a business/marketing operation. Ex: The distinctive image perceived by apple products.
The second important law Organize is very inspired from the German gestalt theory of perception. According to this theory, when a set of elements are well organized, they are perceived as less, and thus simpler. The good organization of the iPod's buttons set made it one of the most famous mp3 player worldwide. Once again, the author provides us a tool to Organize: the "SLIP" tool. SLIP stands for:
  • Sort: Group items into instinctive groups.
  • Label: Label each group.
  • Integrate: Merge groups.
  • Prioritize: Sort groups by priority.
The third law is about Time. Everything that takes less time is simpler. Here again if we use the SHE tool in Reduce, we can reach simplicity. Shrinking the necessary time for a task to be done, by more processing power, or by smarter algorithms. When it is impossible Hide the elapse of time for example by using a progress bar, and finally embody your product with the value of speed.

The fourth law is Learn, is the fact that the products that demand minimum knowledge, or already existent one, are simpler. A product that doesn't require a manual to be read in order to be used is obviously a simpler product.

The rest of laws enriches the simplicity we are searching for, and limits the drift in simplicity. For example, It is necessary to know that without a contrast to complexity, the simplicity doesn't exist, just like good and bad. A product without emotions is a cold uncomfortable product, and thus not simple. I invite those who are interested in understanding simplicity to read the book and examine the complete set of simplicity laws.

PS: I am not a fan of Apple, but yeah, they know how to elaborate simple yet great products.


dimanche 6 mars 2011

Orange stressed

When I was searching for my first job, I always told this joke to my friends: people are suiciding in Orange to get out of it, and I am dying to get into it. Orange is the historical telco (France Telecom) in France who suffered in last years from a high number of suicides among its employees. Well it’s true, I never understood the deal till the day, in a bookstore, my eyes were caught by a black book with the Orange logo on it, and entitled: Orange Stressed.
The author of this book, Ivan du Roy, is a journalist in the weekly Témoignage chrétien and collaborator in the online magazine Basta!. In this book, Ivan du Roy gives us a historical glimpse of Orange and explains why we have suicides today in this great company. The chapters are highly backed with facts, especially from the Stress Observatory of France Telecom.
The story begins in the 1970s where France was way behind its neighbors in terms of telecommunications. To end this situation, the government of Gescard d'Estaing launched the Delta LP plan: Thousands of enthusiastic technicians were recruited by the PTT administration (Post, Telegraphs and Telecommunications) back then to modernize the network infrastructure of France.
In 1990 the transformation of the PTT into an international corporate began. The PTT was divided into two public companies, La Poste and France Telecom. In 1996, France Telecom was privatized into a corporation. One year later, 21% of its capital was sold, and its action was quoted in the stock market. Since that year, and till the day, this percentage kept on increasing. So why was France Telecom privatized?
Many factors enforced this direction. First, there was the Milton Friedman's neoliberalism influence with Ronald Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in the UK: in these countries, telcos were already privatized. Second, the European Commission, in order to Europeanize the telecom services in Europe, chose the deregulation of this sector. A green book was published on this subject. This decision was highly influenced by some European industrial lobbies (e.g. European Round Table of Industrialists), and a big think-tanker and business man played a key role in this influence: the Belgian Etienne Davignon. Finally, and ironically, it was the left wing in France with Michel Rocard that opened the Pandora box by transforming the PTT administration into a public company. It was their reaction to face the difficult economical situation at the moment. To pass their solution, they had an undeclared agreement with the second most powerful syndicate CFDT behind CGT who knew about it too late. The left wing and the CFDT paid the price of their decisions each one in its upcoming elections. For Ivan du Roy, this direction was a pure political choice, because the announced needs for privatization (modernization and unification of networks, technological revolution, cheaper services...) were already satisfied with the PTT administration.
In 1998, The European telecommunications industry was deregulated for competition. New competitors entered the French markets (e.g. SFR & Bouygues). The strategic response of France Telecom to this deregulation was the expansion in international markets, to catch up the market shares it has lost in France. The CEO of France Telecom Michel Bon led this strategy by a big number of fusions, acquisitions, OPA operations in Europe and in Africa (especially the purchase the UK mobile operator Orange which became the official trademark of France Telecom). Huge sums of money were also paid to buy UMTS licenses in different countries. The French state was blinded by the billions of Euros income due to the sale of actions and never controlled these operations as the main shareholder. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2000, the speculative internet bubble has exploded, and all of risky operations of France Telecom caused it huge amounts of losses and France Telecom was the most indebted company in the world, with 70 billion Euros of debt.
How to get rid of 70 billion of junk bonds? France Telecom will witness the era of cost killers. The new CEO Thierry Breton comes to France Telecom with an army of well paid cost killers. They put in place the NeXT plan to reduce the number of employees by 22000 in three years. Employees were pushed in different ways to leave the company. Cost killing rhymes with work intensification, reorganizations (delocalization…) and shift in professions to ones generating more cash flow like commercial professions. These huge changes caused a cultural choc to the employees. First, these changes question their history and values, in other words they would feel that everything they did before was useless. A typical employee in France Telecom is a technician with the public service culture deeply rooted in him. In a short time, we put him in call center, without convenient training, and force him to give the minimum time to clients, which is completely against his old public service culture. This brutal change caused major psychological problems which are highly reflected on the health of the employee and his private life, leading him to suicide in extreme conditions. Changes came from the top of the hierarchy without being well understood by the employees and the management of these changes seems to have been a big failure.
The alerts are in red for France Telecom: precarity of work, ratio of absenteeism and number of suicide attempts. The direction seemed to be in denial at first. In response to the suicide attempts, the company created cells to accompany persons in difficulty, but never questioned the organization itself. It didn’t consider the roots of the problem.
France Telecom is gradually waking up from this long sleep of denial; there are more and more forces from the inside that are trying to stop the drift of the financial logics from the reality of work.

If you are interested by the subject of stress in work due to modern organization of work, I strongly recommend you to watch the two part French documentary “La mise a mort au travail”. In one of the parts a small debate is held with Stephane Richard, the current CEO of France Telecom.


Update: For french speaking readers, there is a recent interesting documentary on the subject by France 5. It shows what have been done in France Telecom since the arrival of the new CEO Stephane Richard who promised to solve these cumulated social  problems after admitting their existance. You can watch it on YouTube:

lundi 21 février 2011

SS2I, Inter-contrat et Open Source

Tous ceux qui ont travaillé dans une société de service connaissent bien le cauchemar de l’inter-contrat. C’est la période durant laquelle le consultant n’est pas en mission, donc n’a pas d’activité. C'est situation psychologiquement dure pour celui qui la subit car le sentiment d’inutilité met en cause l'identité professionnelle du consultant.
Il y a des SS2Is qui renvoient ceux qui sont en inter-contrat a leurs maisons en attendant une mission. C’est ce qui est le pire pour le consultant. Mais Il y en a qui sont bien plus intelligentes et essaient d’utiliser le temps inactf du consultant :
- Soit par formation, qui est une une solution logique pour les deux partis. le consultant monte en compétence pendant ce temps libre, et la société valorisera plus son salarié. Seul gros bémol: ça coûte cher pour la société
- Soit par mise sur des projets en interne, souvent sur des petits projets et sur une courte durée, mais je trouve que c’est une solution inefficace. En fait, le consultant ne voit pas vraiment la finalité de ce quil fait autre que tuer le temps perdu, donc il a toujours le sentiment d'inutilité même s'il bosse sur un projet. En plus, le temps de se mettre sur le projet va rendre son intervention encore plsu inefficace.
Dans le cas d’un consultant développeur, j’ai pensé à un compromis entre les deux: inciter le consultant à participer à un projet open source durant sa période d’inter-contrat. En participant à un projet open source, le consultant apprend beaucoup, même il y en a qui disent que c’est la meilleur façon pour apprendre à développer. Donc on a le même avantage que la formation mais sans coût. Un autre avantage pour le consultant, c'est de travailler sur un vrai projet, qui a une finalité, et qui est comprise par le consultant.La société de service verra ses employés de en plus plus impliqués dans projets open source, car une fois qu’on commence, on aura tendance à continuer même si c’est sur le temps personel. La société peut communiquer à l’extérieur sur son implication open source. Les enjeux de ce genre d’initiatives sont les suivants: Comment convaincre le consultant a le faire? Comment procéder pour choisir un projet open source pour le consultant? Comment évaluer le travail du consultant?


jeudi 27 janvier 2011

Rework, a new business book

 Lately I heard a little buzz going on about a new business book, Rework, written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson. They are the founders of 37signals, which is a collaborative software company with a few millions of customers out there in the world. I started to read it in the train, between Lannion and Paris, but its great typical-informal-american style of writing, its clear and strong ideas, and its attractive design forced me to keep my eyes on it until I finished it on the road. I will outline some ideas of the book in five themes: Scrum practices, ethical business, good & bad  habits, strictly simple products and culture.

 Through the pages of the book, I noticed that the writers praise alot the agile software development methodology Scrum, without naming it. They insist on the importance of having short term small objectives, and dividing those objectives into small tasks. This way we can build the product by making small "wins", which motivate the employees. Fast meetings are encouraged, and big abstract documents (specs, bla bla..) are highly considered inefficient.
 The second important theme of the book's ideas is the ethical business. According to Rework, the most successful products in the world are those whose creator wanted to solve his own problem (a REAL problem), a product he would use himself, a product that makes difference! Don't copy your competitors, forget them and focus on yourself. Forget all of the traditional marketing techniques, just focus on you product, let it talk for you, let your satisfied customers outgrow you! Stop worrying about growing, this should not be an objective! and specially forget about banks and out-money, try to avoid them to the maximum, because sooner or later they will confiscate the control over your business, and the focus on it, so your business will end up by being ruled by unethical financial logics. Finally, you have to be honest with your clients about your products, about on what can be done and what cant be done, just be your self!
 The third theme is about some good and bad habits at work. Bad habits: Meetings! avoid meetings to the maximum because they are a waste of time; Workaholism! reject working overnights, because it doesnt mean more productivty, but means burnouts; Planning! planning is guessing, so stop planning and start acting. Good Habits: Alone Time! give your self everyday some alone time to avoid interruptions and be more productive; Inspiration Time! start working directly whenever you are inspired, because inspiration doesn't come all the time.
 The fourth theme is about making your product and your company the simplest possible. Simple means less expenditure, clearer, more focus on the core business, on the most important. Simple means less mass, less inertia, more flexibility. This is why the authors advice the readers about working under some prefixed constraints to limit business drifts and avoid complexity.
 The final theme is about the culture of the company. Culture is not some few bla-bla nice words on the walls of the company, its not something that it is decided just after a managers' reunion. Culture is the result of the cumulative behavior of the company through the years. Culture is the sum of all of the decisions of the directors. If we are honest with our clients, our employees will have this attitude, if we are considerate to the environnement, our emplyees will be also. The intersting part of this, is that when you have a company with a strong culture, you never loose your time in taking decisions, because decisions are obvious. A Fair trade label distributor will never take more than 3 seconds to decide whether it should sell a Coka Cola product.

 There are many interesting ideas on other themes, like hiring, identifying by products... but I will not reveal anymore of this book, I strongly recommend you to have a look on it, and as the book cover says: "Ignore this book at your own peril".


mardi 11 janvier 2011

Ethical Shopping application for Android

To begin the year with ethical concerns, I developed an application for android that helps the consumer to choose the most ethical products while shopping.
The idea of the application is simple: whenever you decide to buy a product, in the mall for example, you use my application eShopper (e for ethical!) to scan the bar code of the product, and automatically the application will give you a score on a scale of 14 of the ethical behavior of the producing company. The score is fetched from the site http://www.corporatecritic.org and it is based on the behavior of the target corporate in the following domains:
   -Environment (Climate Change, Pollution & Toxics, Habitats & Resources..)
   -People (Human Rights, Workers' Rights, Irresponsible Marketing..)
   -Sustainability (Organic Product, Fairtrade product..)
   -Political activities 
 Here's some screen shots of the application:

There is a nice application in the market that offers a similar functionality: barcoo. barcoo is based on Rank a Brand, which obviously is website for ranking a brand, but based on the input of users and till now its database isn't big enough (cant find France Telecom for example!). This is why I prefered using the corporatecritic website, because their database is bigger and based on publications, communications, news...

Installation and usage

To install my app, you first have to install Bar code scanner app, because I use its library for scanning bar codes. Download eShopper from here and install it on your phone. To use it, just scan a product bar code, and wait for the results (you must have an internet connection of course!). When the results appear, verify that the found company in the title is the same one figuring in the bottom text.

Geeks Section:

eShopper uses Zxing library for scanning bar codes. I only limited bar codes to one line EAN codes found on most products. Once we have the results of the scan, I send the EAN code to GS1 website and parse the HTML response to get the name of the company that manifactured the product. Lets suppose I got "France Telecom Reseaux", then I send this string to corporatecritic and parse the response HTML to get the score. If I dont get the score at the first time, I retry with "France Telecom" and so on.. ( if  the app doesnt find "France Telecom", it will searches for "France" and will find unrelevant results, this is why the user has to verify that the found company in the bar code (title) corresponds to the company searched for (bottom text)).

I hope that you find the application useful, and I wish you a very ethical 2011! and don't hesitate to leave a feedback on the application in the comments.

Note well that the application will not be maintenained, it has been developped very fast (so might have some remaining bugs) and doesnt have any commercial purposes (otherwise it would be a freaky unethical ethical app  no?)

Achraf Souk

mardi 4 janvier 2011

Smart business usage of tablets in restaurants

In a couple of weeks, the HUMANITY will celebrate the release of the first tablet computer: the iPad. Since that date I haven't really found that killer use case of the tablet that will drive me to buy it as a consumer. Till now, what I cant do on my PC, i can do on my smartphone and vice-versa.
Reading eBooks and magazines on the tablet is a very interesting concept, from an ergonomic point of view (many books in one place, easy navigation, interaction..) , from business point of view (better reachability, DRM, CRM..) and from an environmental point of view (less paper). But this concept has a dedicated and optimized tablet (kindle) that was commercialized years before by Amazon.
Nevertheless, I found a great potential for tablets in restaurant business. This summer, I read an article about an Italian restaurant in Lille (France) that started using the iPad for his menus. In fact, when the server comes to take your order, he hands you an iPad, from which you can directly order according to your choice:

The iPad suits perfectly to this job, because it has the same size of a traditional menu, and offers enormous possibilities of interaction, and thus enriching the client experience. For example, the client would like to know more about a certain plate, what is it made of, what it would look like, maybe recommendations of other clients..Servers should not feel threated, because the tablet will not substitute to them, it is complementary to their jobs.
Today I read about a big restaurant in Chicago that is using the iPad for its wine menu. Truth to be said, it is a wonderful application, that helps the client a lot in its buying decision. From a marketing point of view, the use of iPad in this context is very coherent with the luxury character of the consumed drink. The Chicago restaurant owners explain that introducing the iPad for ordering wine has increased by 20% their bottom-line:

Using tablets also can facilitates payment (by credit card number, paypal..), ordering process (the order is sent instantaneously to the servers screen)...
Bref, A really innovative idea for business!